An overwhelming Joel Embiid led the Sixers to their sixth straight win Friday night at Wells Fargo Center.
Embiid had 31 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in the team’s 119-100 victory over the Spurs. The Sixers are 22-16 and can win a season-best seventh game in a row when they play the Rockets on Monday in Houston.
Seth Curry and Tobias Harris each notched 23 points.
Dejounte Murray posted 27 points and nine assists.
The Sixers were down Tyrese Maxey, Jaden Springer, Paul Reed (health and safety protocols), Shake Milton (back contusion), Isaiah Joe (back pain) and Ben Simmons (personal reasons).
HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto reported Friday that the Sixers plan to keep Reed for the rest of the season and fully guarantee his salary. Reed is set to make approximately $1.52 million during the 2021-22 campaign, per Spotrac.
San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich said pregame he didn’t know half of his players’ names. Among the key Spurs out because of health and safety protocols were Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Derrick White and Doug McDermott.
Here are observations on the Sixers’ win over the depleted Spurs:
Embiid a class above
The Sixers began with a nice action that produced a Harris layup. Harris made an Iverson cut, then darted backdoor instead of going all the way to the right wing, and Embiid hit him in stride.
Embiid dished another impressive assist a few minutes later, finding Thybulle for a dunk before a San Antonio double team could have any impact. Thybulle (12 points on 5-for-5 shooting, two steals) returned Friday after two games out because of COVID-19 protocols.
Speaking of nifty passes, an Embiid over-the-shoulder dime to Thybulle in the second quarter wasn’t a bad one.
As is often the case with Embiid, it was immediately evident that he was superior to everyone on the court. He drew two fouls on Jakob Poeltl within two minutes, prompting a quick Popovich timeout. An Embiid fadeaway jumper put the Sixers ahead 20-7. He took nine foul shots in the first quarter, while the Spurs took zero.
Embiid was sharp early on defense, too. He guarded Murray on one switch and stopped the Spurs guard from creating any space; Murray ended up committing an up-and-down violation.
Even after the Sixers grabbed a large lead, Embiid was not in a merciful mood. He narrowly missed a dunk late in the second period over Drew Eubanks before throwing one in on Jock Landale.
In the third quarter, Embiid added two more ferocious dunks to the highlight reel.
For those inclined to nitpick, Embiid did lose a few rebounding battles and settled for some fadeaway jumpers. However, what’s far more relevant is that he’s played MVP-level basketball since shooting 3 for 17 on Dec. 1 in Boston.
“You can kind of see the fear in the defenders’ eyes,” Harris said. “When a guy’s that big and strong and able to make shots … he’s a guard in a center’s body. He makes some great moves, great footwork all around — his skill, his touch, shooting the ball. For the guys guarding him it’s like, what can you do?”
Fourth-quarter injury scares
Furkan Korkmaz was again among the Sixers’ main ball…